Vengeance

Vengeance and the shores of Manhattan

 


U 12.1367-74: the Times rubbed its hands and told the whitelivered Saxons there would soon be as few Irish in Ireland as redskins in America. [...] But those that came to the land of the free remember the land of bondage. And they will come again and with a vengeance, no cravens [...]


 
Weldon Thornton (Allusions in Ulysses) helpfully quotes Seumas MacManus’s Story of the Irish Race (1921, p. 610) with reference to Irish emigration at the time of the famines of the 1840s:

The London Times [...] when the exodus was most pitiful, screamed with delight in one of its editorials, 'They are going! They are going! The Irish are going with a vengeance. Soon a Celt will be as rare in Ireland as a Red Indian on the shores of Manhattan.'

 

Thornton continues “I have not located the editorial in the Times.” Gifford and Seidman (Ulysses Annotated) follow Thornton, adding:

No such quotation appears in the Times between 1845 and 1848, and yet the quotation effectively caricatures that newspaper’s stance before its ("with great reluctance") change of heart on 8 February 1849.

Both sources are apparently correct that the heartless quotation does not appear in the Times during the worst years of the Irish famine, though the newspaper at the time was certainly full of extensive reports of the disaster. What Joyce picked up in Ulysses was the story as it had been recast through the eyes of subsequent fervent Irish nationalists.

We are dealing here with two distinct quotations, the source and context of which has been hopelessly muddled, and which by Joyce’s time were generally considered an accurate reflection of the British Government’s position on Ireland in the late 1840s.

 

Gone – gone with a vengeance

The first quotation, alluded to by Joyce in “they will come again and with a vengeance” can now be dated to an editorial in the (London) Times of 21 December 1854. The hapless journalist wrote a long editorial on emigration from Germany, the extent of which he blames largely on the desire of German youth to see the world after years of enforced military service.

By way of a thoughtless aside he remarks:

As for the Irish, troublesome at all times, they have gone – that is, the surplus is gone – gone with a vengeance. But these Germans; you may see them in crowds at the London Docks, and other resorts of emigrant-ships, looking peaceful and ingenuous.

The ‘surplus’ was that component of the Irish population apparently not required to maintain the economy at home, but which was available to support Westminster’s expansionist aims, especially by serving in the British Army. This was dynamite to the nationalist Irish press. Within a week the Irish papers were up in arms themselves:

English Recognition of Irish Bravery. (From the Morning Herald.) 'As for the Irish – troublesome at all times – they are gone – that is, the surplus is gone – gone with a vengeance.' Would any one believe that an Englishman, not to say any human being, now existing, could pen such a sentence as the above, in reference to the most fearful national misfortune which has fallen upon any people of modern times, and which ended in the death or expatriation of nearly 3,000,000 of his fellow-creatures? Yet such are the terms in which the government organ speaks of the fearful event in which its own influence was so disastrously and fatally exerted.

            'Gone with a vengeance.' Even the Times does not venture to say thank God'.

Freeman’s Journal (1854) 27 December

Three days later the Irish Nation further whips up nationalist sentiment:

England’s howl of fiendish joy over that awful exodus has hardly ceased to ring in our ears. 'The Irish are gone,' said the Times last week, ‘gone with a vengeance.’ Among those who remain, thank God! There are few who fear to face the bailiff, or look forward to the next gale-day with dread. (30 November, p. 249)

The quotation continued to be cited by nationalist sources for decades before passing into popular histories of the period. It was thrown back in the face of the English in the light of subsequent events – and in particular the employment of Irish soldiers in the American Civil War:

Smith O’Brien on the American War... .They have not forgotten that they were received and fostered by the Americans at a time when they were driven from their homes by English misgovernment..with a shout of exultation which was not confined to the prejudiced masses for whom were written the memorable words, 'The Celts are gone. Thank god, the Celts are gone – gone with a vengeance.'

Morning Post (1861) 6 December

The original Irish newspapers had remarked that the Times had not added “Thank God!” By Smith O’Brien’s time in 1861, 'Thank God!’ had found a firm place in the (mis)quotation.

 

Indians on the shores of Manhattan

The second element of Joyce’s quotation contains a memorable image: that soon there will be fewer Celts in Ireland than there are American Indians on the shores of Manhattan. The fate of the native American Indian in the face of westward European expansion in the wild west was compared in Irish sources to the fate of the Celt during the famines. As early as 1851 the Freeman’s Journal stated:

Celtic Extermination in Scotland. The Celt, like the Red Man, melts away from the land which he has occupied and reclaimed for a long time anterior to the dawn of history. [...] The rushing advance of western civilization drives the Indian from his forests and prairies... Something of the same character, but more cold-blooded and cruel, is operating on the fortunes of the Celtic race both in Ireland and Scotland.

Freeman’s Journal  (1851) 5 August

To the Westminster Government America and Canada were at times regarded as sites for large-scale emigration:

There is no apparent reason why a hundred thousand natives of Ireland should not find on the banks of the St. Lawrence that employment, and on the shores of the Huron that fixity of tenure, which they pine for in vain at home. 

Times (1849) 3 January, p. 4

But at present the earliest known reference to the ‘Indians on the shores of Manhattan’ image dates from 1856:

Her organs of opinion rejoiced that the Irish were ceasing  to exist in Ireland, and congratulated themselves that the Celt would as soon be as rare here as the Red Indian is in New England. When the war broke out, the Times said 'the Irish are gone – gone with a vengeance' – and with a vengeance it would seem to be.

If you go to war with America, your military frontier and that of the States will be thick with the ranks of Irish soldiers. Your best soldiers and the best soldiers of America are the Irish.

Nation (1856) 14 June, p. 665

There are several elements of interest in this quotation. Firstly, the American Indian image is cited alongside the Times’s “gone with a vengeance”, but it is not itself cited as deriving from the Times. Secondly, the association between Irish emigration and military service in America is made. Thirdly, the image is not exactly that used by Joyce (and it appears in various forms in later writings). Finally, and perhaps most potently in the light of subsequent evidence, the earliest quotation for the image comes from the Nation, which was at the time coming under the influence of the nationalist journalist and later politician and popular historian Alexander Martin Sullivan.

Alexander Sullivan and Smith O’Brien seem to have been particularly responsible for the growing popularity of the image. In February 1863 the young Sullivan was one of the speakers at a demonstration in Mullingar. As part of his rhetorical argument for the impeachment of the British Government he is reported in these words:

Mr. A. M. Sullivan, who received loud applause, said [etc.]... It was not British policy that nine millions of Celts should live in Ireland (hear, hear, and cheers). The government stood still, with folded arms, when the cry for aid reached them; they sent across the channel the cynical sneer – the malignant scoffing of men without hearts, exulting in the hope that in a few years more a Catholic Irishman would be as rare in Ireland as a Delaware Indian on the banks of the Hudson (hear, hear, and cheers).

Freeman’s Journal (1863) 11 February, p. 3

 

The quotation ‘goes viral’

By the 1880s sufficient time had elapsed for facts to become blurred. A selection of quotations illustrates both this and the different forms by which the colourful image of the Indian in America is recast. The thoughtless aside of the Times in 1854 and the emotive image of the vanishing Celt sum up Irish memories of Westminster’s reaction to the famines:

The Times [...] was still the relentless enemy of the Irish race as it was when it declared in triumph that a Catholic Celt would soon be as rare in Connemara as a red Indian on the shores of Manhattan.

Freeman’s Journal (1881) 21 September

 

Are there enough Irish in America? [...] I am further of opinion that there are enough Celts 'gone with a vengeance' since the 'return with a vengeance' of even five per cent of them seems such a remote and unlikely event. There are now no red Indians on the shores of Manhattan, and there will soon be no peasants in Connemara, a coincidence that the brutal Times so angrily threatened and so devoutly prayed for forty years ago.

Freeman’s Journal (1884) 12 April: Letter to Editor.

 

A great newspaper some forty years ago prophesied that in a short time a Celtic Irishman would be as rare in Connemara as a Redskin in Manhattan.

Observer (1887) 30 January 7

 

 

Home Rule for Ireland [...] Mr. J. R. Cox, M.P. [...] Soon an Irishman would be as rare as a red Indian on the shores of Manhattan. The landlordism of to-day [...] was as cruel and mean and rapacious as their predecessors of 1846 and 1847.

York Herald (1888) 1 November, p. 5

 

The Times..hailed the famine of 'Black '47' as a providential means of settling the Irish question by killing off the people, exultingly declaring that 'an Irishman would soon be as rare in Connemara as a red Indian on the shores of Manhattan.

Washington Post (1889) 3 March, p. 18

 

The Times sang its paean of victory when it seemed as if famine, the deadly pestilence, and the emigrant ship were about to make Ireland a desert. The triumph song ran thus: - 'Soon a Catholic Celt will be as rare in Ireland as a Red Indian upon the shores of Manhattan.'

Times (1895) 23 August, p. 8: Letter to the Editor

 

Mr. Cummings, in the course of an address, stated that The Times said in the black famine year, 1847:- 'The Irish are going with a vengeance.' That Irish went with a vengeance, and they carried that vengeance in their hearts to every corner of the earth.

Times (1909) 13 April, p. 8

 

The story was by now incontrovertible. When Alexander Sullivan wrote his popular Story of Ireland (first published in 1867 and revised and republished constantly into the twentieth century) he wrote:

Now at last England would be at ease.  Now at last this turbulent, disaffected, untameable race would be cleared out. "In a short time," said the Times, "a Catholic Celt will be as rare in Ireland as a Red Indian on the shores of Manhattan."  (1892, p. 564)

These were the sentiments that Joyce invoked in his reference to vengeance and its return, and the exodus of Irish in the face of the famines of the 1840s.

 

John Simpson


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